MGWCC #331

crossword 2:59
meta 0 minutes 

mgwcc331hello everyone, and welcome to episode #331 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest. matt is back this week after guest constructor month with a puzzle called “Be My Guest”. for this week 1 puzzle, we’re looking for the correct chronological order of this puzzle’s four theme entries. okay, what are they? each is labeled with a letter from A to D:

  • {(A) Jorge Mario Berglogio, since March 13, 2013} is POPE FRANCIS.
  • {(B) He sang “Don’t Know Much” with Linda Ronstadt} clues AARON NEVILLE. i know this song, and this singer, even though i know nothing else about him.
  • {(C) “The End of Poverty” economist} is JEFFREY SACHS.
  • {(D) He played Gandalf in “The Lord of the Rings”} clues sir IAN MCKELLEN.

well, this is easy enough—the four guest constructors last month were, in order, JEFFREY harris, IAN livengood, NEVILLE fogarty, and FRANCIS heaney. so the correct answer to the meta is C-D-B-A. cute, and very meta.

the theme could maybe have been tighter, using all first names (instead of AARON NEVILLE), but it turns out that’s not so easy to do. the two NEVILLEs more famous than neville fogarty are historical chamberlain and fictional longbottom, both too many letters for a normal grid. on the beach novelist neville shute is probably the only decent alternative, and it’s the right length, but then you’d also want a francis with a four-letter surname to match IAN MCKELLEN in length. maybe this guy qualifies, for you film buffs. the 12-letter francises (bacon, crick, and the other bacon) are much famouser. as, of course, is POPE FRANCIS.

speaking of neville fogarty, though, his puzzle blog is going off the grid (as it were) due to the time demands of grad school. it’s a shame to see it go, since neville is a talented and entertaining puzzlemaker, but i enjoyed it while it lasted. there’s no official word on whether he’ll still be in the indie 500, but i’m hopeful that he will.

that’s all i’ve got for now. a big thank-you to all the guest constructors for september, and of course to matt for keeping this going year-round. see you next week!

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34 Responses to MGWCC #331

  1. Eric Maddy says:

    Joon– there’s one other problem with potentially using NEVIL Shute.

  2. Justin Weinbaum says:

    Just because I’m curious – did the chronological order of the events mentioned in the clues (which are non-ambiguous) count as correct? On a week three/four I’m sure the answer would be “no” but guess on week one they might.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      No — I mean, it’s Week 1, but those are just four random events, so that wouldn’t make much sense. Plus it wouldn’t fit with the title.

      • jim sherman says:

        I submitted BDCA so was wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever missed a week 1.

        I saw all the constructors sure enough but thought that was just an homage to your guests (link to the title) that you would use them as clues to this meta. You often reprise a word from one puzzle to the next.

        Pope Francis, Aaron Neville, Jeffrey Sachs, and Ian McKellen could have all been clued without reference to any date but you chose to clue each with a datable event. I was just following your lead by submitting BDCA. Was that an intentional red herring?

        How many people did submit BDCA?

        • Jim S. says:

          I did. My fear was that one of the other items would collide with Ian’s role as Gandalf in LOTR, but none did. Like you, given the clear direction of the clue references, I thought I was golden. However, I was definitely concerned about the instructions only referencing the chronology of the “theme entries” with no mention of clues. Not sure if that was purposeful on Matt’s part to prevent what we did… See my post below for how I shoehorned my answer to pseudo-fit into the title.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 289 correct answers, which is obviously more like a Week 3 of 5 than a Week 1 of 5. Corrective measures being taken: this will be “Do-Over October.” I knew this would play harder than a Week 1/5 should, but I liked the idea and thought it’d get stale/too distant if we waited until Week 2 or 3.

    So if you are one of the 289 who got this, you’re all good and your October will proceed as normal.

    If you missed it, then welcome to “Do-Over October.” You won’t be eligible for the 10 regular monthly prizes, but you’ll be eligible for 5 “D-O O” monthly prizes, for those who missed this week. Like door prizes, but without the R. Maybe we need a better name for that, but you get the idea.

    Anyway, MGWCC #331 will serve as our Week 3, and we’ll have a real Week 1 this Friday.

  4. Scott says:

    I can’t believe I had a total fail in week one.

  5. Matt Gaffney says:

    Joon — I would certain have used NEVIL SHUTE, but he’s just NEVIL, so can’t use it. But he does reverse to the first five letters of Ian Livengood’s surname. That’s pretty meta.

    • joon says:

      ha, that’s fantastic. that’s some good liven.

      yeah, that was a total brainfart on my part with the misspelling of the author’s name. ah, shute!

      • Neville says:

        Matt could’ve used NEVILLE FLYNN, Samuel L. Jackson’s character from “Snakes on a Plane” as a 12-letter answer. That character is certainly more famous than I am, what with those monkey-fighting snakes on that Monday-to-Friday plane. (Though perhaps his name is not so well known.)

  6. Neville says:

    An excellent meta-puzzle by Matt, and thank you for your kind words, Joon. I’m still planning on playing a role in the Indie 500 project. Anyone who says grad school is easy is lying!

  7. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Well I’m one of the 289 but only by dumb luck: it turns out that three of the four people named have been *Colbert* guests, and since I wasn’t able to think of anything else I put Pope Francis’s appearance at some unknown future date and happened to get the correct chronological order.

    • Kman23 says:

      I did the same exact thing!

    • Popgun says:

      I did that too. Sachs first appeared (was a “guest”) on the Colbert Report in 2006, McKellen in 2007, Neville in 2013 and I thought I saw the Pope in 2014…

      Therefore, I went with CDBA.

      I was thinking this was a “guest” tribute to the guest constructors last month…

      Only a 1 in 256 chance of this happening randomly. Gaffney- you are a wizard!

  8. Evan says:

    Joon, Neville’s still involved with the Indie 500, though we’re aware of his grad school commitments and would understand if they make it difficult to fit around his schedule. I share the sentiments that I’ll miss his weekly puzzle.

    I enjoyed the a-ha from the meta, though my guess is that this wouldn’t be the best Week #1 for new solvers who’ve never tackled a MGWCC before. Not because it was tougher than normal, but because you’d probably need to have solved the previous month for the a-ha about guest constructors to fully click. I mean, even I went searching on Google at first to see if the four theme answers were guests on the same talk show.

    • Flinty Steve says:

      I wasted time on some dead ends too, and yet . . . the same blog post that contained the puzzle also contained this:

      Big round of applause for Jeffrey Harris, Ian Livengood, Neville Fogarty and Francis Heaney for knocking it out of the park on Guest Constructor Month. Total power team and the feedback from solvers has been outstanding. Thanks, guys!

  9. VU-Prof says:

    I did exactly the same thing as Noam Elkies, and even added a comment about Matt seeing into the future for the last answer!

  10. Al Sanders says:

    Did anyone else find the “LONG O” entry to be their inspiration for thinking about constructors as the key to the meta?

  11. Mutman says:

    Shameful week 1 fail!

    I could never make the connection with the title. Put the events of the clues in chronological order since I lacked any other reason. Seemed like a decent week 1 reason.

  12. Daniel Barkalow says:

    If the grid had contained (in order) POPE FRANCIS, JEFFREY SACHS, AARON NEVILLE, IAN MCKELLEN, the guests’ first names would have been down the middle, due to the first and third starting lines and the second and fourth ending them.

  13. Jim S. says:

    Wow, complete miss on my part. I was shocked that I didn’t show up on the list of correct entries after submitting the theme clues in chronological order (BDCA, I think). The title sorta fit for the Aaron Neville clue (he was guesting on that song since it was a duet), and Francis is sort of guesting in the role of Pope (a stretch, I know, but the folks filling that constant title are sorta guests as Pope). Not sure how I can make the other 2 seem to fit the title, but the first 2 we’re close enough to me to submit my answer. Oops!

  14. J. T. says:

    Another very lucky Colbert guesser here. I spent quite a while Googling guest appearances and every talk show I could think of because the theme of “they were all guests on ____” seemed too arbitrary. Thought that maybe the THREEPM and DROPINS were supposed to point to the right show, but couldn’t find anything for sure. There were lots of double L’s floating around, and if not for the inelegance of the actual name ELLEN appearing a theme answer, I might have thought that was the connection. You also have a middle box that looks a lot like Steve Harvey. But couldn’t find anything definite, and was too busy yesterday to look much more, so went with Colbert at 8:59 this morning and prepared to argue.

    So Matt, the question: if the fortuosities had not aligned, would the order of the guests on Colbert have been accepted as a right answer? Just curious…

  15. Eric L says:

    Well, If Pope Francis is going to be on the Colbert Report, it had better happen soon, as the show is going off the air at the end of the year.

    (PS: I was another person who took a stab in the dark with the Colbert connection.)

  16. Mac says:

    I totally missed this one. Considered the events approach but that seemed too obvious and also did not use the meta-title. Also considered the Colbert approach but couldn’t fit the Pope in. But also think Matt’s answer description was a little off. Early on, I thought that the answer could not be people because you cannot put people in chronological order. I kept looking for some kind of dates (all the males had some combinations of Roman numerals, for example) or events.

  17. Margaret says:

    I decided that “Be My Guest” could be interpreted as “You go first” (possibly also “Age before Beauty” or something like that) and therefore the chronological order was age, oldest to youngest.

  18. Leslie Wagner says:

    Well, 1st time back trying this in quite some time and also missed a week 1, for probably the 1st time! I didn’t have any clue about last month’s constructor’s since I didn’t see or read anything about it. I did wonder about the title, which made no sense with the chronological order of the events.

    Oh well, never too old to be completely humbled by life (or Matt).

    ON track to get DOO *

    *hopefully only one though.

  19. Scott says:

    I believe that the chances of submitting a random answer and having it be right is 1 in 4! … which is 1 in 24.

  20. Math Teacher Dave says:

    I went a different direction with the four individuals, who WERE all guests on the same program – but not Colbert, which I discounted because (as has been mentioned) the Pope has not been a guest there.

    All four of the theme entries were guests on the Charlie Rose show (, and I submitted the order in which they first appeared on the show, along with what I thought was a clever comment (“tougher than a typical week 1; I hope I Rose to the occasion!”). Any chance that I get a valid alternative, even though the actual solution is much more clever?

    Also, Scott is right: there are only 24 ways of rearranging the letters A-D, not 256.

    • Deepak says:

      I think Pope Francis was a topic of discussion, but not an actual guest. The guests are listed in the third line of the episode descriptions.

  21. Norm H says:

    I was in a hurry to be one of the first 10 solvers last Friday and thus not thinking very clearly. I lamely ordered the four individuals by date of birth and was this close to submitting that order as the answer. Never mind that this would have been Matt’s lamest meta ever and WAAAAY below his standards. Thankfully, I noticed the title before pressing “Submit”, and the light went on. I didn’t make the top 10, but I avoided a self-inflicted wound.

    • mrbreen says:

      I did the same thing awhile back, hurriedly submitting Star Search instead of Dancing with the Stars. Only difference is that I realised my mistake a few minutes AFTER submitting. I thought this weeks puzzle was great, btw, and don’t understand the low ratings it’s received.

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